Now that I have the important stuff out of the way, it is time to talk bow hunting. There are many men (and women) who are anxiously awaiting the opening of archery season.
My neighbor, Dan Carter, and his son, Danny, are getting ready for opening day. My boys and I have been shooting our bows and hanging stands with them for the last couple of weeks. Danny is getting a new bow, and I am going to do my best to get him a shot at a deer with it this year.
Necks all around these parts are swelling up from the thoughts of my favorite species, the whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus). This animal exists in all 77 Oklahoma counties, and is the most popular big game animal in our state, which is remarkable considering its near extinction at the turn of the century.
A brief history of the whitetailed deer in Oklahoma reads as follows: 1870s — deer abundant; 1890s — reckless over-harvest by settlers; 1910s — barely 500 remain and deer seasons closes; 1930s — restoration begins; 1980s — stable and abundant statewide herd restored. Thanks to the hard work of generations of conservationists, the deer population has been restored to its former glory.
Now, many Oklahomans are discovering what hunters already know — watching the whitetailed deer can be fascinating and addictive. Mark McSpadden has been watching some of these creatures, and snapping pictures with his trail cam both in the daytime and at night. I haven’t gotten any pics on any of my cameras yet, but I have a feeling I won’t be long.
One of the most interesting times to observe “whitetails” is during the mating or rutting season. Mating occurs in the fall when males will fight by butting and clashing antlers to win access to a doe. Antler size is part of what determines social status in the herd and a larger rack can increase mating chances.
Males will also use their antlers to strip the bark off of saplings or low-hanging branches and paw at the ground to create a “scrape” an area of exposed earth which they mark with scent. Numerous scent glands cover the legs of the deer, and secretions mark their territory during the rutting season.
In addition to keen senses of smell and hearing, whitetails’ natural defense is their breathtaking speed. Even in dense forest, the deer can reach the speed of 40 mph as they bound over obstacles. They are also good swimmers, and can retreat to streams and lakes to avoid predators.
Though hunters go afield with the goal of harvesting a whitetail, many spend the day simply watching and gathering trail cam pics of this magnificent creature. More and more non-hunters are joining them. If you want to catch sight of the majestic and graceful whitetail, early morning and late afternoon, when deer are feeding, is the best time to spot one. Just be careful not to startle one, or else all you’ll see is the “whitetail” waving goodbye.
Have a great week!
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